February 8, 2013 posted by Paul Greco

AL 1B Individual Commentary Blurbs

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Mike Olt- There was talk earlier this year that Olt might get some regular playing time with the Rangers in 2013, but now that they have signed Lance Berkman, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. Olt, barring a very possible injury to Berkman, will likely spend most of his time in the minors to prepare for a full time role next year. He’s shown he can hit the long ball in AA (28 home runs in 350 at-bats last year) and get on base so it might not be a bad idea to stash him away and hold onto him. Olt is only 24 years old and is a great keeper pick, and could really break out if traded to a spot where he would get regular at-bats.

Justin Smoak- 2013 is a real “make or break” year for Smoak. During the offseason, the Mariners acquired both Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse; two players whom can very easily play his position. Though it looks like Morales will primarily DH, Morse can slide into the Seattle 1B slot if Smoak doesn’t perform. Last year, Smoak did hit 19 home runs, but 15 of those were away from his home stadium, Safeco Field. The switch hitting 1B should benefit from Seattle moving their fences in but he needs to hit better than .217 over the course of a season in order to keep his job.

Chris Parmelee- Parmelee got his big chance last year having been given the starting first base job for the Twins right out of Spring Training. After doing quite well in his 2011 call-up, he was a big disappointment as a full time player; so much so that he was sent down to the minors mid-season. After hitting .338 with 17 home runs down in AAA he got another chance with the big club and though he hit better Parmelee still did not impress. Parmelee is a bit of a question mark this season, as he will more than likely not produce the kind of numbers you are looking for from a first basemen. The Twins want to give him a look in right field this year, so regular at-bats will hopefully follow. Parmelee has proven he can hit in the minors, but the 25-year-old will need to prove himself in Spring Training in order to stay in the lineup.

Mark Reynolds- Throughout his career, Mark Reynolds has been an “all or nothing” kind of player. From 2008-2011, he led the NL in strikeouts. He did, however, average 35 home runs during that span. Last year, Reynolds was his usual inconsistent self and drove his fantasy owners nuts. Many gave up on him as he hit only 8 home runs through July, but he came on late to hit 15 more the rest of the way.  Though he batted only .221 in 2011 and 2012, Reynolds still found ways to get on base at a halfway decent clip, which makes him a much better play in OBP leagues. He is someone who should be drafted but also someone you need to pay attention to because he is very streaky.

James Loney- James Loney should be a tough sell to fantasy owners in 2013. He didn’t do much last year between the Red Sox and the Dodgers and it is hard to believe that this trend will change for the better. He has been consistently mediocre throughout his career and hasn’t hit more than 13 home runs since 2007, his rookie season. Now in Tampa Bay, Loney will be the starting first basemen and should get regular at-bats. It doesn’t look like he will ever put up the kind of power numbers you would expect/need from a fantasy first basemen and in most leagues it is safe to look elsewhere for a backup.

Chris Carter- On February 4th, Carter got traded to the Astros and his fantasy stock grew by leaps and bounds. Once headed for a platoon role with Brandon Moss at first base in Oakland, Carter now has the starting first base job for Houston. Between Oakland and their AAA affiliate, Carter blasted 28 home runs in fewer than 500 at-bats. His power does come with a price as he strikes out a lot (think Adam Dunn lite), but the potential for big numbers in the power department are palpable.  If Carter can reach the 500 at-bat plateau in Houston don’t be surprised to see him hit 30 home runs, but don’t expect him to hit over .250. A solid young talent coming into the season at 26 years old, this trade could make Carter one of the bigger sleeper/surprises of 2013.

Adam Lind- Lind had a very rough 2012, getting sent down to AAA in the middle of the season and notching only 321 big league at-bats. Once a promising young talent, Lind seems to be fading away at the plate. Since his breakout season in 2009, Lind hasn’t posted a season with an OPS above .735 and his batting average hasn’t topped .255. Lind is only 29 so there is still hope he can revive his career a la teammates Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. One little tweak in the batting stance might be able to make him a productive fantasy player once again but it is going to be hard to trust him until we see some proof.

Kevin Youkilis- Thanks to Alex Rodriguez, Youkilis will have the starting job at third base for the Yankees when the season starts, and he might have it to himself for the entire season. With talks that A-Rod might miss all of 2013 due to hip surgery, Youkilis stands to gain a great deal of guaranteed playing time. Eligible at first base as well because of last season with the Red Sox and the White Sox, Youkilis will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs and be worthy of a fantasy roster spot. Once known as the “Greek God of Walks,” Youk has a lifetime OBP of .384 which makes him a great play in such leagues. He may not provide much in the home run department but you can bank on at least 15 with 70 RBI’s to boot. Of course, the move to the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium can always boost those numbers a bit.

Carlos Pena- After averaging 34 home runs per season from 2007-2011, Pena came back to Tampa Bay to only hit 19 to go along with 61 RBI’s. His K% took a huge spike in 2013 which led to a career high 182 strikeouts and a batting average below the Mendoza Line. Though Pena is getting up there in age, he is still one of the better defensive first basemen in the game, which will keep him in the lineup. The recent acquisition of Chris Carter shouldn’t do much damage to Pena’s value especially now that Houston is an American League team this year. Pena won’t put up the power numbers he once did with the Rays but don’t expect 2013 to be another season where he hits less than 20 home runs. His low batting average will really diminish his fantasy value in some leagues but in the ones that don’t count it he can be a decent play.

Mark Trumbo- Last year before the All-Star break Trumbo looked like a true beast with 22 home runs and a .967 OPS. He was on top of his game and was letting everyone know that his rookie season was no fluke. Then came the second half of the season. In his final 67 games, he hit just 10 home runs and batted only .227. His OPS dropped by over 300 points and he just seemed lost at the plate. Trumbo saw a similar (yet not nearly as drastic) drop-off in production in the second half of 2011 and it is quite possible that he becomes one of those players whose body just breaks down as the season progresses. This fact is something worth keeping an eye on, even if he had very good final numbers in 2012. If Trumbo can stay healthy and go through an entire season without experiencing any fatigue he absolutely has the potential to become one of the best run producers in the league, especially with the fact that he has Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and the newly acquired Josh Hamilton likely to bat in front of him.

Justin Morneau- Times have been tough for Justin Morneau these past few years. He went from being one of the best players in baseball to an oft-injured former MVP. Morneau only played in 150 games between 2010 and 2011 as he was sidelined due to concussions and a tendon injury to his wrist that required surgery. Before these injuries, Morneau was a perennial All-Star and would consistently be in the top 10 of nearly offensive category. 2012 was his healthiest season in the past three years and though he only hit 19 home runs it is encouraging just to see him out on the field. Concussions are a very scary thing and symptoms can pop up at almost any time but the fact that he has been cleared to play is a very good sign. He should be going into 2013 fully recovered from his wrist injury that should provide him a little more pop but don’t draft him to be your starting first basemen.

Mitch Moreland- Moreland will never be a 30 home run type of first basemen, but what he will be is the starter at that position for the Texas Rangers this season. With Michael Young and Mike Napoli out of the question Moreland should get a real shot at 500 plus at-bats and will more than likely hit 20 homers and knock in about 75 or 80 RBI’s. If Moreland doesn’t produce and struggles to begin the season, don’t be surprised to see him riding the pine or even sent down to make room for Mike Olt.

Lance Berkman- Berkman had quite the season in 2011. He looked young and confident at the plate and found his power stroke again. He hit over 30 home runs for the first time since 2008 and was drafted by many last year expecting more of the same. What they got was someone who started hot and then got injured. Berkman played in only 32 games last season and was a huge disappointment to fantasy owners. He is now on the Rangers and expected to serve as their DH when the season starts. Ron Washington had said he wants to bat the Big Puma 3rd which brings up his value and as long as he can stay healthy Berkman can be a nice play in the UTIL slot.

Chris Davis- 2012 was Chris Davis’ coming out party. He finally got regular at-bats and by seasons end he totaled 33 home runs and 85 RBI’s. He batted .270 mostly due to a high BABIP, so this season you can expect a little decline in that area. Though his bottom line numbers look good, he was a completely different player away from Camden Yards. Davis hit twice as many home runs at his home park compared to being on the road and his OPS was 200 points higher. If Davis can cut down on his 30% K rate he could put up numbers very similar to 2012 but be wary, if he can’t learn to hit on the road then make sure to pay attention to his schedule before you put him in your lineup.

Adam Dunn- Dunn went from being one of the most prolific power hitters of our time to a fantasy dud in 2011. He went from 38 home runs and 103 RBI’s in 2010 to 11 homers with an OPS under .600. Many thought that he was a fading star on his way out but he came back in 2012 to smash 41 home runs and knock in 96 RBI’s. His power did come with a price as he only hit .204 and struck out an astronomical 222 times. Dunn’s power is very hard to ignore and he should be drafted in all formats. He makes for a very good play at the UTIL or CI slot of your fantasy team.

Kendrys Morales- In 2009, Kendrys Morales looked like a budding young superstars. Unfortunately for him the then 26 year old power hitter suffered a broken leg the next year after celebrating a walk off home run. The freak injury cost him the rest on 2010 and all of 2011; a tough pill to swallow for a ballplayer entering the prime of his career. Last year was Morales’ first full season since the injury and though he didn’t turn many heads with his .273/.320/.467 slash line it looked like he was getting better as the year went on. Morales hit 14 of his 22 home runs in the second half of last year which shows his leg felt better down the stretch. He is still only 29 and should bounce around between first base and DH in Seattle and with regular at-bats you can expect around 25 home runs with 80 RBI’s.

Nick Swisher- In the offseason Swisher left the hitter friendly Yankee Stadium and signed with the Cleveland Indians. In his eight years as an everyday starter in the major leagues, he has never hit under 20 home runs and has had an OBP under .350 only twice. The move to Progressive Field shouldn’t hurt his ability to get on base but it will probably drop his home run total into the low 20’s. He has shown that he can hit the ball into the gap by averaging over 30 doubles in the past four seasons so his slugging won’t take too much of a hit in 2013. Expect an OPS right around .800 for Swisher and topping out in the low 20’s for home runs.

Carlos Santana- Santana drove a lot of his own owners crazy last year; especially the ones who sold him before the All-Star break. Heading into the Mid-Summer Classic, Santana had compiled only five home runs to go along with 30 RBI’s, not at all what was expected based on his 2011 totals. Many fantasy owners sold low and got killed, and those who bought low were rewarded handsomely. In the second half, Santana hit 13 home runs, drove in 46 RBI’s, and raised his OPS by over 200 points. Going into 2013 he will still retain first base eligibility but his true value is the fact that you can put him in your catcher slot. Hopefully Santana can work off his impressive second half of 2012 and return to true form. He has the ability to hit 30 home runs and could make a run at 100 RBI’s as well.

Joe Mauer- Mauer came back from an injury riddled 2011 to become one of the most consistent hitters at his position. In 2012 he never had a month where he hit below .270 and topped .350 twice. True to form, Mauer also had more walks than strikeouts and led the AL in OBP again with a .416 clip. Though he showed more power away from his home field in Minnesota, he actually hit for a much higher average (.295 vs .342) in there than on the road. It would be hard to draft him as your starting first basemen because you will probably be looking for more than the 10 home runs and 85 RBI’s that he put up last year but as a catcher he is one of the best options. He will help you in all leagues and he can hit for average, get on base, and produce when it counts. As long as he stays healthy Mauer will be one of the best players on your team this year.

Paul Konerko- Coming off wrist surgery in the offseason, Konerko, 36, is expected to be ready to go with no ill effects by the time spring training starts. When healthy, Konerko was letting all the critics know that age is just a number. After hitting a surprising .381 through the month of May, Konerko hurt his wrist and wasn’t the same for the rest of the season. Post All-Star break he batted a mere .263 with an OPS of .771, not exactly what you would expect from the White Sox first basemen. As a healthy every day power hitter there is no reason to draft him without confidence, as Konerko should once again be one of the better options at first base.

Mike Napoli- In 2011, Mike Napoli was one of the most valuable players in fantasy baseball. He was eligible at multiple positions and really found his stroke, belting 30 home runs and batting .320. But, once again, Napoli failed to reach 400 at-bats, a number he has only surpassed once in his career. He is a very big injury risk which is why the Red Sox forced him to restructure his contract from a 3-year, $39 million deal to a one-year, $5 million deal with $8 million in possible incentives. Napoli has a lot to prove in 2013, he’s a one year contract guy and will be looking to prove he can stay healthy. For those in OBP leagues, he is quite valuable as he has the ability to get on base with a .356 clip. As of now, it looks like he is going earlier than he should in drafts, but if you can grab him late, go for it. He is eligible at catcher this year and will hit better than most at that position.

Mark Teixeira- Before coming over to the Yankees as a FA signing that cost NY Mike Trout, “Tex” was one of the best all-around players in baseball. He could hit for average, power, and get on base at a very solid clip. A perennial lock for an OPS in the .880-.900 range, he saw all of that drop after a very productive first year in NY. From 2010-2012, his OPS dipped to .829, nearly 80 points below his career average. Teixeira, a switch hitter, started to see more pull heavy shifts when batting from the left side of the plate which cost him a lot of would be base hits. If healthy all year, you can bank on a 30-35 home run season with 100 RBI’s, just don’t count on his average being above .260.

Eric Hosmer- 2012 was an absolute nightmare for Hosmer owners last year. Projected to be one of the brightest young stars in baseball, he hit an abysmal .232 and managed to hit only 14 home runs. Hosmer got off to a very slow start and just could not shake his early season woes. At 23, there is still room to grow and tons of potential. Part of the reason his season went south was because of a shoulder injury and an awful .255 BABIP. It’s hard to imagine a repeat of last season for Hosmer, especially if he’s healthy. His sophomore slump will certainly cause him to drop in all drafts which could make for a steal in the middle rounds if he produces like he is capable of.

Billy Butler- Butler  is a young, talented hitter who is currently sitting in the middle of a budding Royals lineup. One of the more consistent hitters in baseball, Butler can help your team out not only with his power and run production but his ability to hit for average. Over the past three years he has a .307 BA and both his home run and RBI total have increased in each of those seasons. This year Butler’s value is greatly increased due to his use at 1st base last year in which he played 20 games-making him eligible in nearly all formats. At only 26 years old, Butler is a rising star who you want on your team for 2013.

Edwin Encarnacion- It’s hard to believe the numbers that Encarnacion put up last year. He not only set career highs in every single category, but he was among the league leaders as well. Much like his teammate Jose Bautista, Encarnacion has found himself at the plate. E5 is now considered a power hitting first basemen. With a very low BABIP of .266 it is amazing that he ended his season with a .280 BA. With his astronomical ISO of .277 last year sure to drop, expect his batting average to stay the same and his home run total of 42 to take a hit in 2013.

Albert Pujols- Albert scared a lot of fantasy owners last year with his slow start. With only 50 hits through the month May and a sub .250 BA, many wondered if they had wasted their first round pick on a fading superstar. By the end of the year, those owners who panicked and traded Prince Albert were kicking themselves when he finished the season with 30 homers and 105 RBI’s. Though Albert is no spring chicken at 33 years old, it looks like he still has plenty in the tank. With protection from newly acquired Josh Hamilton, it is safe to expect another solid season from Pujols with above average power and solid run production.

Prince Fielder- Of all of the first basemen on this list, Prince could be the safest pick. He has averaged over 570 at-bats per season over the course of his career as a starter and the only time he has hit less than 30 home runs was his rookie year. Though his power numbers were down last year he did raise his average 14 points from the previous year hitting for a career best .313. Like most power hitters he does strike out a lot, but his BB/K ratio is very good for the type of hitter he is. In 2012 Prince saw his FB% drop and an increase in his LD% which explains his boost in average and lower home run total but there is nothing to worry about here. He will hit for average, get on base, and though he hit only 30 home runs last year he still remains out #1 choice for fantasy first basemen.

Paul finished the 2011-2012 Fantasy Football season as the #1 Weekly Rankings & Projections winner of the 411Fantasy Expert Challenge. He also finished 2nd in the Expert Draft Accuracy Challenge in 2011. Top 10 Finisher in the FSWA Fantasy Football Draft Projections. Paul is also apart of baseballs elite as a member of Tout Wars. You can follow me on Twitter @PaulGreco

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